Natural reproductive function involves specific areas of the brain and delicate, precise communication via hormones with the reproductive organs. This feedback mechanism involves the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the ovaries, otherwise known as the HPO axis. It is via this process that hormones are made, particularly oestrogen and progesterone, both of which have significant roles to play when it comes to reproductive health but also when it comes to bone health, heart health, mental health, metabolism, immune health…and the list goes on. In fact they contribute to over 400 physiological functions in the body. Something that many women may not realise. And particularly those who are on hormonal birth control!
When taking hormonal birth control, namely The Pill, which is a combined oral contraceptive pill used for contraception and also medically for some women’s health conditions, the HPO axis is switched off. This means that you are not making oestrogen and progesterone and therefore they are not contributing to the 400+ physiological functions that they would otherwise support with. This is huge and perhaps we really don’t know the full impact of shutting these hormones down, yet there is some evidence to show that there are certainly impacts on various parts of the body along with other symptoms and conditions that appear to be strongly correlated with pill use.
In this article, let’s focus on the effect that the pill has on the brain. There is not a lot of study in this area unfortunately. However, one study found that the hypothalamus (responsible for regulating appetite, body temperature, emotions; and also provides a link between the nervous system and endocrine system) was reduced in size in pill taking women. This makes sense, seeing as the pill is rendering the hypothalamus obsolete when it comes to making sex hormones. So, effect does this have on women?
Again, there needs to be more quality science to understand the full impact, however the researchers did find that a smaller hypothalamus is associated with increased anger and risk of depression.